Amber Rudd is the Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye. Follow Amber on Twitter.
Since she suggested reforms to childcare earlier this year, the new Minister for Childcare, Elizabeth Truss has been attacked by the left – not least Polly Toynbee in the Guardian on Friday.
Much of the debate has centred around staff-child ratios – in other words, the number of children a childminder or nursery worker can look after at any one time. In her pamphlet, Truss suggested looser ratios, with staff allowed to look after more children than they are at the moment. According to Polly, this amounts to "cut-price baby farming".
Let’s look at the facts. England has some of the most restrictive ratios anywhere in Europe. In France, nursery staff can look after eight 2-year-olds each. In Holland and Ireland, they can look after six 2-year-olds. But in England, they can look after only four 2-year-olds.
The story is similar for childminders. In Ireland and Holland, childminders can look after five children under the age of 5. In France, they can look after four under-5s. In England, they can only look after three.
What do tight ratios mean in practice? For a start, there can be no overlap at all between the children a childminder is looking after. If a childminder is looking after 3 children, they cannot look after a fourth for even a few minutes. So if one parent is late picking up their child and another is early, the early parent must wait until the late parent arrives, because the childminder would risk losing their job for looking after an extra child just for a few minutes.